Thursday, April 18, 2024

Cubs Officially Sign Free Agent, DFA 2016 Draft Pick


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The Chicago Cubs have officially signed free agent Hector Neris, agreeing to a one-year, $9 million contract that also includes an option for the 2025 season. To make room on the team’s 40-man roster, the Cubs designated 2016 draft pick Michael Rucker for assignment.

Neris, 34, had the best results of his career during the 2023 season with the Houston Astros, recording a 1.71 ERA in 68.1 innings. The veteran reliever made his MLB debut in 2014 with the Philadelphia Phillies, and then became a mainstay in the Phillies bullpen during the 2015 season. Neris has been one of the most durable relief pitchers in the last decade, ranking number one among all MLB relievers in total appearances since the beginning of the 2016 season.

The 34-year-old pitcher has a career 3.24 ERA, averaging more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings, recording 89 saves, most of which coming during his time in Philadelphia. During his last two seasons, both with the Astros, Neris posted a 2.69 ERA in 133.2 innings.

As far as the team option for 2025, it can convert to a player option if Neris pitches at least 60 games in 2024 or if he finishes at least 45 games. There are also a few more injury clauses attached to this contract according to Jon Heyman.

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ESPN’s Jeff Passan has reported that Neris can earn up to a total of $23.25 million if the pitcher meets all the incentives over the two years of the contract.

Reaching that 60-game threshold shouldn’t be much of an issue for Neris, as he’s appeared in at least 68 games in 6 of his last 7 full seasons, when taking out the shortened 60-game 2020 season.

As of now, I think Cubs fans can still expect Adbert Alzolay to remain in the closer’s role to begin the 2024 season, but whether it’s because of performance or injury, Neris will certainly be viewed as the backup option to finish out games throughout the season.

Meanwhile, Michael Rucker will now be placed on waivers, where in the meantime the Cubs can trade him elsewhere or the right-handed pitcher will be claimed by another team. There’s also the chance that he clears waivers and then he’ll elect to remain in the Cubs system or elect free agency.

Rucker, who was picked in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of BYU, pitched in the majors for the Cubs in parts of the past three years. His best season came in 2022, when Rucker posted a 3.95 ERA in 54.2 innings. He was on back-to-back Opening Day rosters in 2022 and 2023, but the Cubs did option Rucker back to Triple-A Iowa, sending the pitcher to the minors three times last year.

Rucker finished the 2023 season with a 4.91 ERA in 40.1 innings, with a 40/19 K/BB ratio during his 35 relief appearances. Overall with the Cubs, Rucker had a 4.96 ERA in 123.1 innings.

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